Not everybody is a natural, when it comes to job interviews. You may in fact be the best person for the role, but legal private practice employers are ultimately going to appoint the person that performs best at interview. So what are the secrets to excelling at interview and making sure you are offered the position?
This is the first of a series of blogs with some useful tips that should help you perform at your optimum capacity when you next interview with a law firm. If you have not interviewed for years, these reminders may prove invaluable. If you have interviewed recently, but not quite secured the job at hand, then you can fine tune your preparation for next time using these pointers.
The first focuses on how to go about conducting background research in advance of your interview. Subsequent blogs will focus on areas such as typical interview questions/topics.
Demonstrating knowledge of the particular role, department and organisation in question will show the interviewer the extent to which you are interested in this position. Too often candidates lend the impression that they are looking for any old job, or that they are more preoccupied with leaving their current employer than joining this new one…
Take a closer look at the law firm’s website, paying particular attention to the pages relating to the partners you are due to meet with, the team as a whole, the wider practice area, and also pages pertaining to recruitment. How do they portray themselves to clients (and/or their employees/potential employees)? In which areas do they profess to be most active, in terms of geographical locations, practice areas, industry sectors and client types? The more you know about the organisation in advance, the more you will be able to engage your interviewer in informed discussion.
Other websites can prove useful sources of information. Legal directories such as Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners can give you more of an idea how the team/partners are thought of, and some examples of higher profile work and clients. The partners will hardly be impressed if you cite the fact that they are included in the Legal 500 directory as a principal reason for wanting to join the team, but there may be useful content within the directory write up itself that resonates with your own experience and ambitions.
It is worth searching for relevant articles on websites with legal news content, such as The Lawyer and Legal Week. If the firm has recently hired in your practice area, or acquired major clients, or won a landmark case, it would be remiss of you not to know this in advance of the meeting, if you are genuinely interested in the prospect of joining this team.
Other useful sites that seem to indicate employee views include ‘Inside Buzz’ and ‘Roll on Friday’. Junior lawyers in particular, at trainee, NQ and assistant solicitor level, have contributed anecdotes to these sites that give a more “balanced” (if sometimes bitter, in some cases!) on the ground view.
Other articles. As well as becoming better acquainted with the firm with which you are due to interview, you may also wish to cast your eyes over articles in the press relating to competitor firms, or other wider issues affecting this practice area or industry sector. Which new developments in the legal industry or the economy on the whole have had an impact or will impact on your specialist line of work? Have there been specific changes in legislation or landmark cases you should know about, in case they come up in discussion? Does the current economic climate bring certain revenue opportunities that your current team is exploiting at present, or that you might exploit in the future upon a move?
Finally, make sure your read and re-read your own CV. This is the partners’ main prop for the interview. Whilst they may at times ask more abstract questions about general points of law or hypothetical scenarios, they will more often ask you about specific experience detailed within your own CV. As some of these matters may be less recent than others, it is well worth reminding yourself of the key elements of these cases, your step by step involvement, and any noteworthy results.
Interviews are as much about style as content. Your presentation skills and interpersonal attributes are very much on show throughout. However, the better prepared you are, the more the “content” takes care of itself, and the more you can focus on coming across as well as you can.
Always feel free to arrange a further dedicated conversation with your recruiter, either face to face or by telephone, in advance of any interview. This way you can share ideas, use the recruiter as a sounding board, or even conduct a mock interview by way of a rehearsal, to make sure you “hit the ground running” when it is for real. Even if this additional preparation time only contributes a small amount to your interview performance, it might be just enough to make sure you secure the role ahead of the competition.